The new stage show “The Secret Silk” is so far off Broadway that it’s in Japan.
Well, it’s not quite there yet. But it will be this fall when it premieres aboard the Diamond Princess on a cruise departing from Tokyo.
“The Secret Silk” is the newest theater production being vetted for Princess Cruises by Broadway lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz, known for writing “Wicked,” “Godspell” and “Pippin.”
It’s Princess’ answer to the escalating entertainment war among major cruise lines.
Contemporary musicals are now standard fare aboard many ships, with cruise lines staging condensed or full-length versions of Broadway or West End shows such as “Mama Mia,” “Chicago” and “Cats.”
Princess Cruises has taken a different tack.
Shows have been created specifically for its ships by three-time Oscar winner Schwartz, with two of those — “Magic to Do” and “Born to Dance” — already being staged on Princess ships.
Earlier in August, the New Yorker visited Los Angeles to hone the production of his third Princess show, “The Secret Silk.”
Watching him work is a theater junkie’s dream come true. I was lucky enough to spend a little time observing as it all came together on a rehearsal stage in Santa Clarita.
Schwartz was taking notes on the sidelines as a trio of performers rehearsed for the new show.
“Can I suggest a little bit of a cut?” he asked director John Tartaglia.
“Cuts are always appreciated,” he answered.
Tartaglia, an actor, puppeteer, director and comedian, quickly incorporated the request.
There were a few more changes as cast members worked their way through the dialogue again. Although all the changes were minor — dropping a few words here, adding a phrase there — the actors’ delivery smoothed out and the pace picked up.
Schwartz cheered at the end. “Great. That sounds beautiful,” he said.
There were lots of smiles. The cast seemed elated.
“The Secret Silk,” a classic Asian folk tale with a contemporary spin, is about a young woman with a secret, and the magical ability to create brilliant silk fabric.
The 50-minute show also features puppets by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Schwartz was a fan of cruising long before his partnership with Princess. “I love the experience of being on the ocean, and having great facilities like a gym and good restaurants,” he said. “I also always liked getting off and seeing the ports.”
Now he sails with the line annually, getting feedback from other passengers about his shows.
“People are very positive,” he said. “They tell me they love the fact that these shows are originals, that they can see a show on Princess that can’t be seen anywhere else.”
“Magic to Do,” the first show Schwartz created for Princess, is a revue of his work. It includes on-stage illusions and some of his most famous songs, including “Day by Day” and “Defying Gravity.” It is being staged on Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess.
“Born to Dance,” his second Princess show, celebrates Broadway dance. The multimedia production traces the journey of renowned artists and shows that made musical theater history. It is being produced on Grand Princess, Star Princess and Golden Princess.
In addition to being staged on Diamond Princess, “The Secret Silk” will be produced on Regal Princess in early 2018.
Info: Princess Cruises, (800) 774-6237, or contact a travel agent